General Motors is betting that using electric vehicle batteries for generating and storing electricity after the car is scrapped will save money for the company and others.
It could also bolster the case that vehicles like the Chevrolet Volt, and the upcoming all-electric car, the Chevrolet Bolt, are about more than garnering credits toward meeting the government's fuel-economy standards.
Tuesday, at its Renaissance Center headquarters, GM executives showed how five Volt battery packs are already helping light offices at the company's Milford data center.
Because the Volt typically draws its power from a band of energy in a battery pack, there is a lot of leftover electricity.
A new solar array and two wind turbines feed the Milford data center's circuit breaker panel, where the Volt batteries work in parallel to supply power to the building.
"Even after the battery has reached the end of its useful life in a Chevrolet Volt, up to 80% of its storage capacity remains," said Pablo Valencia, senior manager of GM's battery life cycle management. "This secondary use application extends its life, while delivering waste reduction and economic benefits on an industrial scale."
The batteries also can provide back-up power to the building for four hours in the event of an outage and stores it when it's unneeded. Excess energy is sent back to the grid that supplies the Milford campus.
The 74-kilowatt ground-mount solar array coupled with the two wind turbines generate enough power to provide all of the energy needs for the office building and lighting for the adjacent parking lot. Together, these renewable sources generate approximately 100 megawatt-hours of energy annually, roughly equivalent to the energy used by 12 average households.